Controversy over fire department handling of ice storm

Controversy over fire department handling of ice storm

AUGUSTA, GA (WFXG) - Firefighter union officials are fuming after they said the Augusta Fire Department mishandled response to February's historic ice storm.

"There was no contingency plan in place, and if there was one in place, it wasn't handed down," said Randy Reese, President of the Augusta Firefighters Association.

He said he has a lot of questions after the ice storm inundated firefighters with an unusually high amount of calls.

"Why weren't we prepared?" he asked. "We knew about this 10 years ago. Well, same question to administration: why weren't they prepared for what was going on?"

Reese identifies several critical problems:

  • A shortage of propane at some fire stations caused them to be closed when the power went out
  • There was no plan to get employees to work through the falling trees and freezing rain, stranding some firefighters at home

"Some guys were told, if they didn't come in, they were going to get dock pay," said Reese. "And so they said just put me off duty, because they couldn't get to work, they didn't know when they would get to work."

But despite all these difficulties, there were no serious injuries or deaths as a result of the slowed response.

Reese said at one point, the fire department had a backlog of dozens of calls, and in the end, he just wants better preparation for next time.

"I think the whole department needs to get together, and take ideas from all of the guys, send them up to administration, and make a plan."